Innovation Starts in the Heart

From the Mac to the iPad, Steve Jobs has transformed the way we work and play through technology. Now, as he steps down from his post as Apple’s CEO, we reflect on his triumphs and the passion that ignited his innovative ideas.

 

Steve Jobs’ resignation as CEO of Apple sent a shockwave through corporate America. This man, a magnate of product innovation, has inspired and invigorated the technology industry while dabbling in computers, music, movies, and mobile phones.

Jobs’ ingenuity, enthusiasm, and competitiveness are designed into Apple’s core. He is a college dropout (because he couldn’t see spending his parents’ hard-earned cash on classes that didn’t interest him), and the Apple co-founder who was ousted by its board at age 30. But he continued to follow his infatuation for technology, and was brought back into the Apple fold after it acquired his second start-up, NeXT, a computer platform development company.

Jobs enjoys a cult-like following of Apple enthusiasts who leap like lemmings at any new product announcement he makes. His passion pumps through the company’s veins. Yet, in his brief letter to the board of directors and the Apple community, Jobs maintained that even without him at the helm, “Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it.”

That has many asking the question: Can Tim Cook, who succeeds Jobs as CEO, maintain the momentum that Jobs created? Jobs recommended Cook for the CEO role, so there is no doubt in my mind that he will be a great leader. Cook is reported to be a sharp-shooting businessman with an eye for operational excellence. The real question is: Does he have the passion?

It’s a good question to ask of any CEO, because leadership and business acumen don’t necessarily translate to passion, or a love of innovation.

I think Jobs’ status as an iconic businessman is owed more to his entrepreneurial spirit than to the devices he introduced. Yes, Jobs built wildly successful products using his eye for detail and sophisticated simplicity, and he figured out how to deliver new iterations of the iPod, iPhone, and iPad quickly enough to keep consumers interested. But it is his curiosity and ability to follow his own intuition that sealed his—and Apple’s—success.

A few days after Jobs announced his resignation, a good friend of mine forwarded me a link to Jobs’ 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University. The message was honest and humble. He said dropping out of college and getting fired from Apple were two of the best things that could have happened to him. While not in school, he still hung around and took courses that interested him. Calligraphy class, he noted in his speech, laid the groundwork for the typography that became part of the Mac computer.

When he was fired from the company he founded, it was a public failure that almost forced him out of Silicon Valley, he said. He felt rejected, but still loved what he was doing. That rejection allowed him to start over, with NeXT and also as a beginner in a new field, through his purchase of Pixar Animation Studios.

But perhaps mortality has been Jobs’ greatest motivator. Even before he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Jobs said he reminded himself every day that he would be dead soon. It helped with the big choices. “Death is the single best invention of life,” he said. It can be a change agent because it reminds us that time is limited.

“You have to find what you love and do what you believe is great work,” Jobs told the Stanford graduates back in 2005. “Keep looking. Don’t settle.”

When you love what you do, creativity, innovation, and success naturally follow. Steve Jobs taught me that.

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